A fruitful endeavor State's farmers market programs assist parents, seniors

Customers examine the produce at the New Castle Farmers Market.

n an age in which so many governmental programs are fraught with waste, corruption and politically fueled motivations, it’s refreshing to occasionally come across one offering some basic benefits that reach all the way down to the local street corner or nearby country road.

One of them started up again this month and will continue through November.

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture is once again offering its WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program and Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

These programs provide WIC recipients and low-income seniors with fresh, nutritious, unprepared, locally grown fruits, vegetables and herbs from approved farmers across the state.

People enrolled in the WIC program and those over age 60 who meet federal income guidelines can receive four $6 checks to redeem at qualified farmers markets, businesses or roadside stands.

There are more than 1,160 participating farmers operating 828 farm stands and 88 markets across Pennsylvania. More than 70 farm food outlets across the Central Susquehanna Valley have been approved to accept the vouchers.

Residents over 60 years of age with incomes of less than $23,828 for one person or $32,227 for two, can obtain $24 in vouchers a year, distributed on a first-come, first-served basis in rolls of four certificates worth $6 each. Seniors can apply at their county Office of Aging. There is also an online application form on the Department of Agriculture website.

To find the form, market locations and other information, visit  agriculture.pa.gov, scroll about a third of the way down the page and click on the “Farmers Market Nutrition Programs” link. The state also has a smartphone app that can be downloaded to help search for nearby markets.

Recipients are given a list of participating farmers and farmers’ markets when they receive their checks. These checks are redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables grown in Pennsylvania. Each eligible recipient receives four $6 checks to redeem at a qualified farmers’ markets or roadside stands. There are over 1,160 FMNP participating farmers at 828 farm stands and 88 farmers’ markets in Pennsylvania.

Visit www.pafmnp.pa.gov to find a market close by that accepts the FMNP checks. When you are at the market, look for the white FMNP signs to know which vendors will accept the checks.

These programs not only help the recipients, they promote farmers markets and sales. They also enable seniors or parents with young children to buy fresh, nutritious food and more than likely, enjoy a day out at the market.

Now that’s a government program with a full circle of healthy benefits.

— The (Sunbury) Daily Item

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